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Effort Is Contagious

Mike Gittleson was the Director of Strength & Conditioning at the University of Michigan for 30 years and was a part of 15 Football Championships in that time.

I was reading a mystery novel by Michael Connelly and it opened with two lines from a Samuel Hoffenstein poem:

I want to drown in good-salt water, 

I want my body to bump the pier;

Enamored by these poetic lines, I read them to the football players when we gathered after a run.  I told them that I felt this defined effort and the lines should be used as its definition.  I asked them to imagine working out in water and choosing salt water because its buoyant, a kind of safety net.  You work so hard when you are finally exhausted you are only able to lay still and float and your depleted body keeps bumping into the pylons of the pier, where you were training……’effort‘.


We discussed as a group effort and decided to come up with a more fitting definition of the word, though I still was partial to ‘good-salt water body bumping’.  When the lexicography of a dictionary is undertaken the editor searches for the first historical documented time a word is used and the derivation of its best use; its meaning, evolution, pronunciation and function are all part of the definition before a word becomes a dictionary appellation.  Meaning, pronunciation and function are especially fluid in today’s technological, cellular, internet society.  Vocally we are constantly changing our phonemic system, as well as, the definitions of many words have certain subtleties that change over decades.  We certainly do not sound or speak like the early settlers who came to this land.  With texting and emailing, combining words, new words and usage of words will and become an evolving part of our Google online dictionaries.  You might ask, “What ‘sup’ with that?”

Redefining or refining the word effort for the football team was a logical step forward as effort meant more to ‘us’ than defined in the Merriam Webster Dictionary.  I read to the players the Merriam definition as our starting point:

Merriam Webster Dictionary definition of effort:

1. conscious exertion of power: hard work

2. a serious attempt, try;

The players were upset with the words ‘attempt’ and ‘try’ as they seemed somewhat cushiony.  They also thought the whole definition lacking.  They deemed effort as something grandiose.  Effort changes you.  Effort also has the quality to change others around you.  Effort can be seen and distinguished from effort that is lacking.  The athletes brought up countless examples of the efforts of others that changed them and efforts that they wanted to emulate.

We changed the definition on the spot.  We even got rid of the soft sounding Merriam and decided Webster Dictionary was better.

Webster Dictionary definition of Effort

1. conscious exertion of power, hard work, which not only changes you but others

2. good-salt water body bumping

It takes effort to Get Strong.

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